April 24, 2012 at 4:31 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
In what is likely to be a morning shocker to some, Jair Jurrjens was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett following the game on Monday.
Optioning a pitcher of Jurrjens’ stature at this point in his career is rare. He has 715.2 major league innings under his belt, and at one point posted consecutive fWAR seasons of 3.7 and 3.9. He holds a career 3.48 ERA, but he has consistently out-performed his peripherals since the day he was brought up, and a career 3.96 FIP and 4.25 xFIP attests to that.
Whether Jurrjens is hiding an injury or is simply fighting mechanics is not known. Only Jurrjens knows that. Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez can deny the injury question until they are blue in the face, but only Jurrjens knows how he feels. All we can go by is data, and it shows Jurrjens throwing a slower fastball that he continues to lack the command of over stretches and doesn’t have the movement to make up for that lack of command.
In 2008, Jurrjens’ fastball had enough sinking movement that Brooks Baseball classified it as a sinker. He received 57% ground balls per balls in play on what you could say were his best-moving fastballs, and he threw them at a speed of almost 93 miles per hour. In 2009, his best-moving fastballs maintained a 48% GB/BIP rate at almost 92 miles per hour, a slight decrease in both but still pretty solid.
Fast forward to 2012 after a combined 268.1 innings between 2010 and 2011 due to injuries. Brooks Baseball’s classification has Jurrjens’ fastballs basically grouped together because the movement isn’t there. Either way, it all comes out to a GB/BIP rate in the 30-40% range with a line drive per ball in play rate at 33%, while throwing at a speed of less than 90 miles per hour.
Jurrjens simply isn’t getting the results he used to get with the fastball, and combined with poor command has resulted in a trip to Triple-A, which is something never imagined for him at this point. If Jurrjens is to return to his 2008-09 form, he will have to learn how to command an 88-89 mile-per-hour fastball while getting the most movement possible. It’s certainly not something he should be figuring out in the major leagues.
In the meantime, Randall Delgado will remain in the rotation, and Tim Hudson is expected to return on Sunday or Monday of next week.